Jesus is my boyfriend?

The author called it the  “Jesus is my boyfriend” genre of worship music.  I almost choked as I read this in the blog of a respected pastor and theologian.  Beyond the obvious shock factor, his point was, well, to the point.  Over the past couple decades, our move toward songs celebrating the ‘intimacy’ of worship has resulted in a whole category of songs that could have been written for Brittney Spears or other pop icons, substituting “Jesus” for ‘baby!’

I would add another ‘genre,’ the “Jesus is my therapist” version of the same, focusing on God’s immediate intervention into my emotional angst and ‘issues.’

For the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach a college level course on the book of Psalms at our church to the students of the New Life School of Worship, a residential, one-year intern / training program that has equipped several hundred worship leaders, many of whom have actually been hired as worship pastors at churches around the country.

The first two-thirds of the course focuses on the structure, poetry, and theological themes in the Psalms and the last third takes a sweeping look at how the Psalms have shaped and influenced Christian worship over the past two thousand years.  After reading and studying scores of Psalms, we are still amazed at the power in the words of the Psalter.

Today our class had a lively discussion on how the early Church Fathers were hesitant to allow folks to write songs for Christian worship, preferring to use only Scripture, and particularly the book of Psalms (exclusive Psalmody).  The danger was that well-intentioned songwriters would, well, write bad songs – songs with bad theology or worse; songs that actually do more harm than good.

A few ‘YouTube’ sites later and our class had gone completely off the rails.  We had seen and heard some outrageous examples of songs that not only don’t reflect Scripture, they promote seemingly human romantic relationships that involve our Lord, all the while, focusing on ‘me’ rather than on God.  My students are all remarkably talented young men and women, some of whom have already recorded CDs and are indeed worship leaders.  They were struck with the challenge – going back to the Scripture as our source for worship rather appealing to the lowest common denominator – ourselves.

There are wonderful new worship songs out there but nothing we do is in a vacuum.  Our modern ‘CCM’ generation did not invent Christian worship and, it could be argued, we haven’t really improved it much either.

It was the Psalms that inspired Martin Luther to construct the liturgy into four basic movements.  Beginning with praise (the “praise” Psalms) we then move to the sermon (the “Wisdom” Psalms) followed by public confession and absolution (the “Penitent” Psalms) and culminating in the celebration of the Eucharist, the ‘giving of thanks’ for the work of Christ which can be seen in the Thanksgiving and Sacrifice Psalms.  What a novel idea, begin with praise and worship, followed by instruction, public confession and ending in the celebration of the Eucharist.  If it sounds boring, then the problem is with us and not with the Scriptures.

3 thoughts on “Jesus is my boyfriend?

  1. I have heard a few songs on the radio that made me wonder if they were just commercial crossover love songs trying to hit another market but I think most are sincere efforts of worship. I can see where the confusion comes in, though. On the one hand God knows us so intimately that he knows the hairs on our heads, he hears our every thought and invites us to ‘pour out our complaint before him’. He sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within us and yet for all that intimacy we are to hold him in awe and reverently worship Him because He is Holy and Creator of all things and can’t even look upon our sin. Jesus is a friend to sinners and our Redeemer and yet still God of all creation. That is so much to comprehend and try to express adequate praise!

    • It is a delicate ‘balance,’ which is why (I suppose) the early Church Fathers and many of the Protestant Reformers erred on the side of sticking only with ‘inspired’ words, primarily from the Psalms. (there are certainly plenty of ‘personal’ and emotional prayers and praise coming from the pages of the Psalms) I’m certainly not an “exclusive Psalmody” guy – but they do have a point! Great thoughts Kathy!

  2. We live in a time of increased preoccupation with the self. The Supremacy of the Self has wheedled its way into contemporary Christian culture and forged what I call the Pop Gospel. Too many of us, I think, are devotees of the New Narcissism. What’s needed, frankly, is a return to the healthy fear of God and gratitude to Him for his mercy and grace toward us all through Christ Jesus.

    In the modern church (particularly in America) there is a certain sense of God is Tuned Into Me. It is reflected in certain popular songs, books and some Christian TV talk shows. I don’t think our grandparents’ generation would have understood the mindset of today’s Christian culture. What we see a lot – particularly in the younger crowd – with God is Tuned Into Me is this idea: God just loves loves loves me me me so much he just follows me around like his favorite TV show. He’ll always have my back.

    This sounds wonderful on the surface. But it’s really a serious error – both in terms of emotional health and theology. God is Tuned Into Me? No. It should be me tuning into God. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Humble yourself before Him and he will lift you up. Embrace the simple disciplines and be blessed in the DOING of the word. But that is not the Pop Gospel.

    Many songs on Christian radio reflect the Pop Gospel; look how great it is to be a Christian, your life will surely be great and you will feel very very happy inside and all your problems will go away or make perfect sense. This is also some of Jesus is My Therapist. Jesus helps me figure everything out – so I can do what I want with my life and know I’m chasing my desires the right way. While there is some benefit and truth to asking God for wisdom (we certainly need it), I often wonder if we have not lost the sense of surrender and gratitude.

    I personally find myself most properly aligned and peaceful when the worship I sing or listen to reflects the truths of scripture and not my feelings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *